A Thomas County, Georgia, jury found seven family members of Kendrick Johnson — including his parents — guilty of civil disobedience Wednesday for blocking a courthouse building and security checkpoint during an April 2013 protest. The group was arrested after refusing to move.
The family faced a sentence of a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. They will not serve jail time as long as they are not arrested within the next year, according to WALB.
Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick's father, said to the jury the family had no choice but to take those actions because they felt Johnson's case was not getting a fair investigation. It has been two years since Johnson, 17, was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes County High School in Valdosta, Georgia, and very little progress has been made in uncovering the sketchy details of his death.
"They gave us no choice but to come to this courthouse and protest the way we did because we weren't getting any cooperation from the sheriff's department," said Johnson, according to WCTV. "They gave us no choice but to come here and bring attention to what happened to our son."
A Thomas County judge presided over the case. A Lowndes County judge who has been hearing the case recused himself, citing failure to "mediate the presently outstanding issues in the Kendrick Johnson matter" as the reason, in a letter posted by WALB.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled Kendrick's death a freak accident and said that he fell headfirst into an upright mat and was trapped. Kendrick's parents were never settled with this explanation and won a court order to have a private autopsy for their son.
His body was exhumed and a second autopsy was performed in June by Dr. William R. Anderson. In the report, he concluded the teenager died from trauma from a fatal blow that appeared to be non-accidental, according to AP. His organs were also never returned to his body, and he was instead stuffed with newspaper, according to the second opinion.
A federal investigation, being conducted by the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, continues in his case.
Follow Natelege Whaley on Twitter: @Natelege_.
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(Photo: Erik S. Lesser/Landov)